John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Take on the role of violent agitators or the police in this atmospheric smartphone simulator.
Who knew that a video game based on rioting could be so, well, thoughtful?
"Riot" is a developing project in Italy that's led by film-and-game director Leonard Menchiari, who previously did cinematography for "Half-Life" creator Valve Corporation. The atmospheric little simulator of bedlam, which runs on iOS or Android phones, is inspired by real-life political turmoil from around the globe – with Menchiari himself claiming to have witnessed a mass uprising or two.
Gameplay is not a simple matter of burning cars, busting windows and dodging clouds of teargas (although you can do all those fun things, or it wouldn't be a proper riot). There's a hefty element of strategy involved, with the player taking on either the role of the agitators or the truncheoned legions of police trying to maintain order. The multiple viewpoints exist to reflect the muddled nature of rioting, in which who's "good" and "bad" is often a matter of opinion.
Here's the game designer explaining his vision:
As the economical crisis advances, the discontent of an entire population cannot help but outburst in Riots, where the sounds of many voices get heard at once. The Director Leonard Menchiari has been experiencing this form of protest in person, and the game "Riot" was born as a way to express it and to tell the stories of these fights. What is that triggers such a strife? What does a cop feel during the conflict? In "Riot", the player will experience both sides of a fight in which there is no such thing as "victory" or "defeat".
The developers have received modest funding so far on their Indiegogo page. If they collect enough cash, they hope to enrich the simulator by traveling to the sites of recent uprisings in Greece, Egypt and Italy to interview people involved in the conflicts. (If they stumble into "live riots," they say so much the better.) This documentary material is intended to make the riot experience more realistic and not biased toward one side or another. It's an ambitious effort to root out the causes of civil unrest, considering this game will probably eventually vend for a few bucks on iTunes.
Here are screen shots of "Riot," whose elegant design recalls the stick-people world of "Sword & Sworcery":
(H/t to Unconventional Dog.)